in renewable energy sources |
Going green just isn't what it
used to be. Amid rising fuel costs and climbing consumption, more
people are getting involved in environmental issues and concerns
in new ways.
Yes, there are still ardent environmentalists who
have a compost pile in the backyard and a solar panel on the roof. But in the
larger picture, significant players in the field are starting to offer economic
incentives, not ideology, to involve greater numbers in the green campaign. These
include government bodies as well as organizations that are dedicated to promoting
the use of alternative, renewable sources of energy.
"In the past few years there has been a significant rise in using passive means of energy conservation," says Michael Richarme, at the Arlington, Texas-based analytical research firm Decision Analyst Inc. "Passive conservation is the simple act of reducing energy use by improving home insulation or using a product that consumes less fuel. "That's a definition of green that's been getting a lot of attention lately."
Electricity comes to North American
homes over one of three major grids serving the United States and
Canada. Coal-burning plants generate more than half of that electric
of the comes from nuclear power plants, natural
gas power plants and hydroelectric power sources.
Until recently, utility companies, not consumers, decided the source
that lights the way. In the face of that, green power advocates
traditionally championed alternative and renewable energy sources
that include the sun, the wind, biomass processing and geothermal
But the cost of using the alternative sources keeps
them well beyond the reach of the average consumer. At the moment,
"only 3 percent of the total electricity generated
in the United states and Canada is from green energy sources," says Richarme.
Beyond costs, these alternatives also depend
on the lay of the land, a state of affairs neither consumers nor
producers may control.
Both geothermal and hydroelectric energy need
thermal vents and water power to generate current. Solar panels
can only thrive where the sun shines often, while wind turbines
need a gusty environment. The biomass approach, arguably the most
independent of geography, has to do with converting feedstock or
trash into combustible gas.
Where can a customer find such operations? "There are several states that have green power availability,"
says Këri Bolding, spokeswoman for the Center for Resource
Solutions, a San Francisco-based industry watchdog. Most states
She says many people tied to local
utility companies that use fossil fuels now have the option of buying
certificates. These certificates, also known as green tags,
represent a designated quantity of electricity generated from a
renewable source. They displace the use of coal, nuclear power,
oil or gas on regional and national electric grids.